This woman’s waistcoat, dating from about 1615-18, is made of linen and embroidered with polychrome silk, silver and silver-gilt threads in a pattern of flowers and foliage with coiling stems. It has a fitted bodice fastening at the front and full-length sleeves. It was purchased by Sir William Burrell from the London art dealers Frank Partridge and Sons in 1930.
Such waistcoats were worn by wealthy English ladies. The embroidery was worked first by professionals and then the panels were stitched together to form the garment. The pattern of brightly coloured flowers, here with caterpillars and butterflies, set within coils of plaited braid stitch was very popular. Variations of this design appear on other embroidered women’s waistcoats and coifs of this period including one worn by Margaret Layton of Rawdon (1569-1662), the wife of a Yorkshire landowner, which is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It was possibly one of her favourite garments as she is depicted wearing it in her accompanying portrait. Other embroidered waistcoats can be seen in several portraits by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger and William Larkin.